In LandWatch San Luis Obispo County. v. Cambria Community Service District (2018)25 Cal.App.5th 638, the Second Appellate District ruled that the trial court acted within its discretion in awarding record-related costs to the respondent agency, even though the petitioner had elected to prepare the record, where the petitioner failed to prepare the record in a timely fashion.
In January 2014, the Cambria Community Services District approved an emergency water supply project. The district did not perform any environmental review under CEQA. LandWatch sued and elected to prepare the administrative record. LandWatch also sent the district a letter under the Public Records Act asking for the documents comprising the record. The district sent LandWatch the documents. A month later, the district informed LandWatch that additional documents had been identified, and that the district would provide them upon payment. Three months passed before LandWatch asked for the documents, at which point the district provided them, in April 2015. In August 2015, LandWatch produced a draft index to the record. The district responded by noting that the index was both over- and under-inclusive. That same date, the district produced its own index and certified the record it had prepared. LandWatch filed a motion to include additional documents post-dating the January 2014 approval date. The trial court ordered the district to certify an appendix consisting of the additional documents. Weeks passed and LandWatch did not prepare the appendix. The district wrote that it would prepare the appendix itself, after which LandWatch prepared its own competing appendix, which it lodged in February 2016, a month before the trial. The court accepted the district’s appendix, and rejected the one prepared by LandWatch. Following trial, the court denied the petition. The district filed a memorandum of costs seeking $39,000, including $4,000 for preparing the certified record, and $27,000 for preparing the appendix. LandWatch moved to tax costs. The trial court awarded the district $21,000 ($4,000 for preparing the certified record; $14,000 for preparing the appendix – half of the district’s requested amount; and $3,000 for other items). LandWatch appealed.
LandWatch argued that, because it had elected to prepare the record, the district ought not to recover any record-related costs. The court noted, however, that in electing to prepare the record, LandWatch was required to do so within 60 days. LandWatch missed this deadline. LandWatch argued the district was to blame for the delays. The court disagreed. The trial court, as trier of fact, had concluded otherwise—a determination to which the Court of Appeal must defer.
LandWatch argued the district ought not to recover costs associated with the appendix of post-approval documents because the district had resisted LandWatch’s efforts to augment the record with them. The court was unmoved. The trial court had ordered the preparation of the appendix at LandWatch’s insistence. “For LandWatch to now assert that the appendix is not part of the record to escape the costs it created is fanciful, if not perverse.” (Slip. Op. at pp. 7-8.)
The court also upheld the trial court’s awarding costs for the district’s court-call, copying and transcription costs. The court noted that the trial court had already reduced the costs as requested by LandWatch, or had ample basis for finding the costs to be reasonable.